Photo: EPFL website.
EPFL, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), the Geneva Graduate Institute and the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform have announced the launch of a PeaceTech Alliance. It will enable collaboration on a range of Peace-to-Tech and Tech-to-Peace initiatives to contribute to the global peace agenda.
PeaceTech aims to leverage technology to drive peace while also developing strategies to prevent technology from being used to enable violence. The PeaceTech Alliance will contribute to knowledge-building in the field, with a view to tangible and impactful systemic change at scale. Initiatives will explore the role of science and technology in all processes around peace and how peace studies should influence science and technology.
“The dramatic confluence of crises we face today makes it more important than ever that we develop innovative ways of improving global security and advancing towards peace,” said UNIDIR Director Robin Geiss.
“We at UNIDIR are delighted to be able to contribute our expertise in frontier areas like artificial intelligence, space security and cybersecurity, but also on the links between cutting-edge technologies and persistent threats from conventional and nuclear weapons. The pooling of our strengths with those of our PeaceTech Alliance partners can help to drive real progress towards a more stable, more secure world.”
“The technological turn is creating unprecedented transformations in our societies, polities, economies, and even in our individual and collective identities. It is essential that responsible technologies be developed by design and incorporate principles of human rights, sustainability, and peacebuilding. This Alliance is an important path forward in that direction,” said Marie-Laure Salles, Director of the Geneva Graduate Institute.
“STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – is at the basis of design and development of disruptive physical and digital technologies. We at EPFL, as STEM researchers, have a crucial role in preventing and mitigating the many manifestations of violence and conflict,” said EPFL President Martin Vetterli. “This Alliance brings together complementary knowledge of STEM sciences, social sciences, policy and field actors. This interdisciplinarity will enable us to co-develop initiatives that are adapted to current social, political, and technological challenges,” added President Vetterli, in presenting the PeaceTech Alliance at a meeting on a new vision for collaboration on disarmament at EPFL’s Bois Chamblard Estate last week. The event was attended by representatives of several governments and non-governmental organizations as well as various arms of the UN, including the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and UNIDIR.
Initiatives for tangible outcomes
PeaceTech Alliance initiatives will include joint projects, calls for proposals, expertise-building, education and awareness-raising activities. A first project targeting de-escalation of online polarization is already underway, led by Prof. Karl Aberer of EPFL’s Distributed Systems Laboratory. The team is developing AI-based algorithms to counteract online polarization and offline radicalization.
Optimizing landmine detection and supporting recovery and reconstruction strategies is another priority. Inspired by the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano, this project focuses on protecting both people and the environment.
The Alliance will also build on existing partnerships with the International Committee of the Red Cross to enhance demobilization and reintegration processes for combatants and civilians, including the advancement of adaptive prosthetics for survivors.
Other work will examine ways to improve monitoring mechanisms for conventional, chemical, biological, nuclear and autonomous weapons, as well as verification processes for AI-based systems and outer space. These efforts align with the Swiss Arms Control and Disarmament Strategy and are relevant to the UN Security Council.
This article was first published on 3 May by EPFL.